LINCOLN — Sam Keller was spreading out the compliments, almost like a proud father bragging about his boys.
I-back Marlon Lucky was incredible. The Nebraska offensive line was powerful and physical. The game plan well-crafted.
And Keller himself? Well, it wasn't about Sam Keller on Saturday as the Huskers whipped Nevada 52-10 at Memorial Stadium.
"It wasn't the perfect game, but there will be some in the future," he said. "That's just how things go."
Nebraska didn't need 300 passing yards and four touchdowns from Keller against the Wolf Pack. That production came easily from other places.
Keller just ran the shop, removed the rust and liked what he saw on the scoreboard as he walked away.
"The whole point was just to manage the offense and put points on the board today, and that's what we did," Keller said. "So I'm pleased with where the offense is at and how I did."
NU's season-opening game wasn't about personal accomplishments — unless your name was Marlon Lucky — no matter if a good number of the 84,078 came to see what you had to offer.
To Keller's credit, he only did what he was supposed to do.
"He handled it like he does in practice," tackle Carl Nicks said. "He takes charge, he has that charisma, that swagger . . . and everybody is all eyes on him at all times. And I think he did a real good job."
Nebraska steamrolled Nevada with 413 rushing yards, the most by the Huskers under head coach Bill Callahan. Lucky contributed a career-high 233 of it, scoring three times running the football and one time catching it.
Overall, the statistics were as lopsided as the final score, with NU holding edges of 35-9 in first downs, 625-185 in total offense and 40:38-19:22 in time of possession.
Keller completed 14 of 25 passes for 193 yards and the TD to Lucky, and played a little more than three quarters. Nebraska can wait on bigger things for bigger games.
"I can be honest with you and say I had butterflies, but I think after a year and 10 months off of not playing in a game that that's expected," said Keller, the transfer from Arizona State. "Especially in an atmosphere like that, so electric and so special."
The 283rd consecutive sellout crowd instead drew its energy from some smash-mouth football, courtesy of the Husker offensive line pushing the Wolf Pack north and south for an average of 5.9 yards a carry.
Keller said the reliance on the rushing game had nothing to do with his interception that cornerback Jonathon Amaya returned 80 yards for a touchdown and a 10-7 Nevada lead. It just happened to start right then and there.
On back-to-back short scoring drives immediately after the turnover, NU ran the football on 17 of 18 plays. Lucky and freshman I-back Quentin Castille each scored on 1-yard runs as the Huskers regained control at 21-10.
Keller then attempted just one pass on each of the first two possessions coming out of halftime, completing throws of 21 yards to Nate Swift and 24 yards to Frantz Hardy. Lucky finished those drives with TD runs of 17 and 3 yards, and the cushion increased to 35-10.
"We found out early that we could just jam it right down through there and get yards on the ground," Keller said. "So that became our focus in the second quarter when we came back after the turnover. It was just a beautiful thing to see our offensive line and running backs work."
Freshman kicker Adi Kunalic hit a 46-yard field goal and Castille added a 2-yard run as Nebraska made it 45-10 before the third quarter was over.
Nevada had no answers, failing to string together more than one first down on a drive until the latter part of the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Nick Graziano completed just a third of his passes in his first career start.
"First of all, our offense held our defense out to hang in that first half by not getting first downs and not converting some opportunities we had," Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault said.
"The defense was just on the field too much. In the second half, Nebraska did a nice job exploiting some things, but there's no question their offensive front dominated our defensive front — and we couldn't find a way to get up."
Lucky was the biggest beneficiary of the mismatch, which was magnified by the absence of All-WAC linebacker Ezra Butler for the Wolf Pack.
Coming back from two concussions, Lucky said some time off left him with fresh legs. His rushing total was the best since Jammal Lord ran for 234 against Texas in 2002. "I felt good," Lucky said. "I was reading the defense and the line was talking to me."
Callahan said he was happy for Lucky, pleased with Keller and impressed by the offensive line.
|Yards per carry||3.2||5.9|
Nebraska is 1-0 all-time against Nevada.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 8|
|Ball State||Sept. 22|
|Iowa State||Sept. 29|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 13|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 20|
|Kansas State||Nov. 10|
Nebraska has played 5 games on Sept. 1. See them all »
©2018 BH Media Group